Grandmaster Kevin Thompson Fundraiser

By Franklin Puello

JULY 20 2013







On July 20, 2013, William Rivera, Kyoshi, and  I were fortunate enough to be able to attend the scheduled Gathering as a Benefit for a member of the Martial Arts- Karate- Do family. Located on the 18th Floor of the Pennsylvania Hotel,  in New York City. I met some of the most well known and recognized names in the East Coast Karate-Do community who had come together to honor and contribute in the organized benefit of a long standing member and elite practitioner of  Karate: Kevin Thompson, AKA LITTLE K.A.

At this Gathering I was reminded of a recent topic addressed at the Online Blog Station by Haisan Kaleak, Soke and Farouk Gibbs, Shihan which addressed and compared the strength of bond between clubs, organizations, schools’ teams, professional teams, and many other organizations with large membership. As it was discussed and brought to agreement, the bond between team mates, members, brothers/ sisters, or any large group belonging to the said is a strong bond forged by friendships, common interests, beliefs, principles and thoughts but the Martial Arts Community has exhibited and demonstrated over the years that there is no comparison or matching by any stretch of the word to the Strengthen and permanency of the Bond forged in the Martial Arts Family- Karate Do.

This strength , Love, respect, and admiration was tangible and expressed by one and all in attendance. Upon entering the room I encountered many of the hundreds of acquaintances and longtime friends of the past. The Love for each other was obvious and concrete as the conversations started and a chaotic rambling from greetings to remembrances of past training sessions. We reminisced  battles in the Dojo, and wars in competitions.

Not only the love, respect and admiration was expressed by one and all to each other, but same exact feelings of veneration expressed for their attendance to this Event. We were all here to Honor the Said “Eighth Wonder of The World” Little K.A, AKA Kevin Thompson.

While KA courageously stood at the place of Honor surrounded by his outstanding supportive and loving family they witnessed, first hand, The Strength and Love in the Martial Arts Family which remains unmatched by any other organization or brotherhood in existence. These demonstrated, not by the words I or the hundreds in attendance could articulate, but by their actions, smiles on their faces, and look in their eyes, cemented by the Cries from their Hearts; The following Photos will Express it and Tell the Story much more comprehensively than words…

















































































On July 2oth, 2013, Kevin Thompson presented to me his obi…

Once again, this man has floored me.

The flood of emotion that washed over me at that moment when I looked down on the table and saw a black box, trimmed in red, with a brass plated reading, “Kevin Thompson Retires Black Belt Given To Billy Beason 2013”, containing his black belt, can only be described as deep sorrow, followed by humble gratitude, but certainly no emotion of joy.

From deep inside, I felt a surge of profound grief, as if a death had occurred of a close, close friend.

But I looked up and yet, there was my close, close friend looking at me, as if to say…I’m still here Bill…

It was like I saw an accident scene; of a car belonging to a friend crushed and mangled, then …heard a familiar voice from aside of the wreckage of my loved one, although a little banged up, a little bruised but still there, saying, “hey man! Here I am.”

So I forsook the belt on the table and rushed to Kevin and grabbed him and didn’t want to let go.

But I also felt angry! WHY…this emotion?

Because this disease is robbing him of the dearest things to him in life, his independence, his family, his secular career, his swag! Additionally, this horrid disease robs him of his art, and there isn’t a thing any of us can do about it! All I could do was embrace Kevin as a brother…I wanted to comfort him and I hope that it did…but I was surprised, that this embrace comforted me.

In 1992, I made a conscious choice to retire from the martial arts…the reason why, was a personal decision …but some of you know why…but that’s not for this story…

Gi’s get thrown away…along with pads, and other equipment. Even trophies and awards, well quite frankly… I had no further use for or connection to. But my obi, my rank, that piece of material that I wore around my waist for decades as I practiced kata, attended special trainings, sparred and competed in hundreds of tournaments, was always with me and physically close to me in those aspects of my art. Could that too, just be discarded as if it meant nothing or at the very best be regulated to box in an attic or drawer in the house?

Of course it couldn’t. I knew how hard I had worked to obtain it and what It meant to me…I watched it as it went from a new, deep, deep black, stiff belt…to a loose, tattered graying rope that hung around my waist…

I remember seeing the first signs of wear around the knot which appeared after many times of tying it as I gi’d up for practice, and I delighted in seeing the appearing frayed edges as they developed from the abrasive contact made between it and my gi which occurred over years and years of practice…I remember watching it fade as the salt from the sweat of my body transformed it…I remember it growing old with me in the art. I remember when I bled; I would wipe my wound with my obi.

So when I chose to retire, could I just toss this in the garbage? Are you serious!? The answer of course was no…the respect that I had for Kevin, moved me to present my belt to him…as a sign of deep respect because he in part was an ingredient, a necessary ingredient, that drove me to excel that made me…ME!…and I wanted to let him know that, so, every time he looked at it, or dusted it off as it hung in his dojo or mentioned to someone what it was when asked about it…that Bill Beason, his nemesis, his rival, respected him so much.

So fast forward to July 20th, 2013…when I was made aware, that Kevin’s speech was moving in the direction of this presentation, it was truly, truly surprising to me. I looked for nothing from Kevin at this event, I only chose to give and wanted to make it a memorable occasion for him…yet, he made it a memorable occasion for me.


The range of emotions could not be processed quickly enough for me when it hit me that Kevin was giving me this honor…so when I returned to my home in Florida, I needed to reprocess the moment and to recreate as best I could what happened…

It was about 2 a.m. and the house was quiet…I put the box containing the obi on a chair at about the same angle that it was on the table that evening…and I approached it in the same manner that I had that day…and tried to “feel”.

I slowed down my emotion to reveal to me what my first thought was and it was this.

“Kevin is never… going to practice anymore, he will never put this on again”

And that was simply it…the word NEVER reverberated in my mind…

And that made me so, so very sad, that his physical practice is over for him… that not because of choice, but because of this dreadful disease, this phase of his life is over…he will NEVER again, put this belt around his waist…EVER!

He will never again Gi Up! As it were…He will never again perform kata, he will never again practice basic things let alone advanced techniques…he will never teach by way of example and say “watch how I do it and you do it!” He will never again delight crowds or cause fear to strike an opponent in the throes of competition…

This wasn’t supposed to be over for him, this wasn’t supposed to be the way a warrior goes out…this wasn’t supposed to be the way for such a person…I had always felt that they would have to create an over 80 year old division just for Kevin Thompson!

And this isn’t just about the competitive arena, a martial artists life we all know is so much more, a way of life that incorporates body mind and spirit…but yet I felt hurt because part of his art has been robbed of him.

This loss I felt as if it were my loss…This loss, was a profound sense of loss to me, because I know what his art means to him and I recognized that! I felt sorry for him and rushed to hug him and to embrace him because this gesture, reflected a similar gesture 20 years earlier when I gave him mine…

The only person to ever wear my belt was me…

The only person to ever wear Kevin’s belt was him…

I’m sure he never put mine around his waist and I will never put his around mine.

I’ve trusted him with mine…I am trusted with his.

Kevin could of said, give this to my son to wear, or bronze it and put it in my school, display it for others to see… or bury it with me when I die.

But he has trusted it to me.

Is this an epic gesture of sorts repeated, that other warriors over centuries past have done for each other?

I wonder, did Ali and Frazier have some moment? Some private meaningful gesture that said “Man I love you this much”?

Well, I don’t know…but all in attendance that day know…Billy Beason and Kevin Thompson have something special…that they will never really understand…a bond different than blood…a bond as Kevin and I discussed, is like a diamond…yet a diamond is nothing more than carbon, an element that is common…time, impact and pressure turn that carbon into a diamond, which is considered rare and precious in comparison to the element from which it started…and that bond is very, very strong!

We started out as nothing…as carbon…we have come to be diamonds…noticed I didn’t say we finished as diamonds…

My beloved brother,

I am humbled…

Bill Beason